Highgate church starts 50p lunch club in wealthy area to help those in need

(From left) Linda Treherne, organiser of Community Lunches, prepares for the opening of St Anne's Co

(From left) Linda Treherne, organiser of Community Lunches, prepares for the opening of St Anne's Community Lunches with Father Andrew Meldrum, vicar of St Anne's, church warden Tony Rushbrook and Robert Aitken, chair of St Anne's Development Group. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Polly Hancock

Just down the road from palatial celebrity homes belonging to the likes of Kate Moss and George Michael, lies a 50p lunch club, set up to meet a rising demand for ­financial help in Highgate.

St Anne’s Church in Highgate West Hill will offer “anyone in need” a two-course meal for just 50p and time to catch up with neighbours every Tuesday ­between 12pm and 2pm.

Whether residents are feeling vulnerable, deprived, lonely or just need a place to share their worries, food project co-ordinator Linda Treherne will welcome everyone with open arms, as well as with her famous bowls of homemade soup and crusty bread.

“The church is in an affluent place on Highgate West Hill but you’d be surprised that it is quite a deprived area,” the former food project manager at Highgate Newtown Community Centre said.

“It’s embarrassing for people and it’s also pretty scary for those who are vulnerable. If you have nobody to talk to, the day can be so long. But we offer a space where people can talk for two hours and eat a two-course meal for 50p. If you can help somebody, that’s really good.”

The lunch club will also run every Wednesday, offering people lunch for £2.50.

Highgate Newtown Community Centre in Bertram Road, which ran a 50p lunch club for more than two years, is also about to launch its latest community club.

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It will serve anyone suffering ­financial hardship or feeling isolated a nutritious and balanced meal for only £1 on Fridays and Mondays, which started on Friday.

Following the closure of Holly Lodge Community Centre’s luncheon club for elderly residents in August, Mrs Treherne thinks the time is right for more community spaces in Highgate.

She believes demand has grown immensely over the last few years, and will continue to rise.

“The club is not just for elderly people but for anyone in need of help,” the 60-year-old Whittington Estate resident said. “I really hope this is going to work, that it’s going to be busy and that people take the opportunity to meet other people.”

The clubs, which start next Tuesday and Wednesday are not the only additions to St Anne’s.

In partnership with Camden Council and Highgate Newtown Community Centre, the church will also host a youth project to ­develop a garden as well as a mother and toddler group.

Sixth formers from La Sainte Union Catholic School and ­William Ellis School, both in Highgate Road, Dartmouth Park, who are studying health and ­social care, have also been invited to help dish up the freshly cooked meals and chat to residents.

The church is also in the process of applying to charity Foodshare, which connects food growers with other charities.

Robert Aitken, of St Anne’s ­parochial church council, said the new community space was an “exciting development,” which will “give the church a way into the community that it had never had before”.